How do the ‘New IRA’ justify their actions?
In the wake of the senseless murder of Lyra McKee some reevaluation of entrenched positions is necessary, and urgent. We must ask ourselves how we have arrived at the situation, where 21 years after the signing of the Belfast Agreement, young women are being murdered on the streets of our second city by Irish republican extremists.
From where do these gangs draw support? From where do they take their inspiration? Unfortunately those are extremely easy questions to answer.
The ‘New IRA’, like the Real IRA, Continuity IRA, Provisional IRA and the Official IRA before them, see themselves as the legitimate heirs of the insurrectionists of Easter, 1916.
The ‘New IRA’ on parade in Dublin. This could however be any republican grouping from the last 50 years.
Furthermore, groups like the so-called New IRA, also look to the actions of their predecessors for moral justification. The statement released by them today, apologising for the death of Ms McKee but attempting to deflect blame away from themselves, is almost a carbon copy of many such statements released over the years by the Provisional IRA, INLA, IPLO etc etc.
A significant number of the older ‘volunteers’ of the New IRA will have grown up hearing such statements. ALL of the members of that group, and it’s political wing Soaradh, will have grown up hearing dead PIRA/Sinn Fein, OIRA, IPLO and INLA/IRSP members being eulogised and lionised.
Dead republican activists are held up as exemplary people. Made into larger than life figures, heroes to be worshipped and emulated by the younger generation. Such veneration of the republican dead continues to this day, indeed, it has become even more bombastic, unrealistic and quasi religious.
Bobby Sands, former burglar, now portrayed by republicans as a modern day Saint.
This Easter, Provisional Sinn Fein have been busily engaged in myth making. Remembering the so-called “patriot dead“, not as having been living, breathing, fallible human beings, but as symbols of their cause. Comic book versions of real people.
House breakers, gunmen, alcoholic thugs and child murderers are lauded as being almost saintly.
Lofty quotes are attributed to men who, in life, struggled with basic literacy. Morbid graveside orations take on the character of something akin to a church service, mixed with an NSDAP party rally.
Loyalism does not indulge in such outlandish commemoration. Partly because militant Loyalism remembers its fallen on Remembrance Sunday, a day on which any outlandish or overtly militaristic displays would be roundly condemned (rightly so), by the wider Unionist community and by society at large.
Partly because Loyalism does not have at its core a foundational myth like that of Irish republicanism, which has turned the events of Easter week, 1916, into an almost miraculous sequence of events, culminating in the “blood sacrifice” of the Easter rebels.
A Loyalist commemoration in Belfast.
Our critics will, without doubt, highlight our previous articles in remembrance of fallen Loyalist volunteers and accuse ISOT of hypocrisy. Any meaningful reading of those articles will, however, reveal that my co-author was not attempting to present the dead as paragons of virtue, nor as cartoonish, uber-heroic archetypes, but was attempting merely to humanise those who, in the opinion of both myself and my co-author, paid the supreme sacrifice in defence of their community and their country.
A re-reading of those articles will reveal no ‘call-to-arms‘ from beyond the grave. No quotes attributed posthumously in order to inspire the impressionable youth.
There is, however, incredible hypocrisy in the words of PSF, who apparently see no contradiction in, on the one hand, condemning the violent actions of the New IRA, whilst on the other hand eulogising the dead of the Provisional IRA and presenting their actions, not only as justifiable, but as having been necessary in the context of the times.
“Our IRA = good, New IRA = bad” the hypocritical message of PIRA/Sinn Fein
Thus Sinn Fein glamourise and romanticise violence. Young, and not-so-young, men within the nationalist/republican community are left with the impression that in order to earn high status within their community, and to earn fame within Irish republican circles, they must engage in violence (of one sort or another).
It is not only hypocritical and disingenuous, it is also dangerous. Young Irish republicans in places like the Creggan will see Sinn Fein’s condemnation of the actions of the New IRA as being either- A) hollow words issued in order to assuage popular opinion, or B) the words of traitors who have abandoned the ‘true faith’, either for economic gain, or for the sake of their own personal safety. Weasel words spoken out of one side of their mouths, whilst PSF continually to harken back to the ‘righteous‘ violence of the Provo’s armed campaign out of the other side of their mouths.
A recent social media post by PSF in North Down. What message does this send to so-called ‘dissident’ republican gangs?
Who is to blame?
No political party or organisation can “ride two horses”. Either Provisional Sinn Fein take responsibility for the radicalisation of thousands of impressionable people within their community, and consequently tone down their martyr worship and constant justification of past violence, or they must face the fact that they will be guilty of giving further aid and succour to the so-called ‘dissident’ terror gangs.
Provisional Sinn Fein: rewriting history to suit their own agenda
Nor can the Provisional republican movement continue to openly and continually justify 30 years of sectarian violence, murder and mayhem, whilst at the same time condemning contemporary republican violence.
Every community has an inalienable right to remember their dead, a right which I would defend absolutely, however, however, for the sake of future generations, such remembrance must be solemn and dignified, absent any triumphalism and without the lionising of the dead which has done so much to indoctrinate successive generations. We must remind the youth that ALL such deaths were tragic.
Only by doing so can we move forward without glamourising violence. There is no “blood sacrifice”, no ‘martyrdom‘, there is only the personal tragedy of violent and premature deaths.
Sinn Fein have turned the republican hunger strikers into heroic archetypes
Let every community remember it’s dead, but in a way that does not jeopardise the future.
The dead do not speak to us from beyond the grave, as Provisional Sinn Fein would have us believe. They do not spur us on towards our perceived goals. This is the lesson that Irish republicanism MUST learn.
To dehumanise the dead by turning them into caricatures, semi-religious figures, absent of any human frailty, is to do them a grave disservice and to insult their memory in the eyes of those who knew them as living, breathing human beings with human failings and foibles.
It is also, as previously stated, a dangerous path. One which leads younger people into believing in violence for violence’s sake. Graveside orations and calls to action from beyond the grave are destructive, inciting and deeply damaging. They do nothing but add fuel to the fires, a fire already well stoked by the so-called ‘dissidents’.
Spot the difference- New IRA or Provisional IRA?
We must ALL learn that acts of remembrance are not calls to arms, nor appeals for fresh tragedy. Irish republicans need to learn this most of all. For if that lesson is not learned, our society will face more tragedy, and more senseless murder.